The ownership of K24 and Kameme FM by the Kenyatta family has long been a subject of conjecture. Nevertheless, there exists valuable insight into the events that transpired, leading Rose Kimotho, the founder of these media businesses, to eventually cede control to the Kenyattas.
During this period, Business Daily reported a significant development: “Sources familiar with the deal say the transfer of Regional Reach assets to TV Africa is linked to the fact that K24 was set up with financing from a local bank in which the Kenyatta family has a major shareholding.”
In October 9, 2009, Rose Kimotho was reported to have handed over her business to TV Africa Holdings, an entity associated with the Kenyatta family. This transfer had been publicly announced earlier, in a gazette notice published on August 14, 2009. The listed assets slated for transfer encompassed radio and television broadcasting, rural marketing, and various other media ventures.
Kimotho later revealed the circumstances that led to this significant decision. She recounted how a modest overdraft of Sh. 12 million from CBA Bank (now NCBA) had rapidly snowballed into an insurmountable Sh. 70 million debt.
“CBA called me for a meeting and said the overdraft was now at Sh. 70 million. They said, ‘Your overdraft is now Sh. 70 million. Initially, you had an overdraft of Sh. 12 million. You’ll never get out of this.’ And, of course, with an overdraft, the interest is exorbitant and it grows every 24 hours. It just kept growing,” she lamented.
Kimotho recalled the moment when “bank officials” confronted her, asking, “How do you intend to pay for this loan?”
“(It is) either an investor comes in or they buy you. And that’s what happened. And that’s how we lost K24. And what always haunted me was because of the circumstances. What could I have done better? Maybe I should not have started with a bank loan. Maybe I should not have started with a dream,” she reflected.
The overdraft had initially been procured as part of a strategy to position K24 as a major news and election coverage hub during the 2007 General Elections. It had also facilitated the recruitment of Louis Otieno from Citizen TV, who was then a prominent figure in Kenya’s television industry.
However, the turmoil arising from the elections and the subsequent post-election violence pushed both K24 and Ms. Kimotho to the brink of collapse.
“The saddest chapter in the country’s history and K24’s history is the post-election violence,” she sorrowfully noted. Apparently, the post-election violence had a detrimental impact on K24’s advertisers.
“It was followed by six months of zero income and six months of accumulating costs without any income, and six months of an ever-deepening overdraft with CBA Bank,” she explained. “Our dreams and all our plans for K24 just went down the drain.”